Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Two Great Gifts

Folks -

I felt blessed by two great gifts received Monday in a long visit to the NYU transplant center.

The first gift was wonderful news from a friend; the second, a perfectc checkup of my own.

In the overcrowded waiting room, Nancy and I spotted the daughter of a wonderful man who had shared a space in the Transplant ICU with me for several days. He had just finished his checkup and looked great - perhaps 20 pounds heavier than I'd last seen him before the start of the New Year in the hospital. He always had the bright smile, but it beamed essentially brilliant as we shook each other by the hand and healthy the other looked.

The last time we were together was Dec. 29 - 10 days after my liver transplant and the day before the day I was released from NYU - we took turns riding a semi-recumbent bicycle in a small physical therapy room overlooking the sparkling East River. In our hospital gowns and slippers, gaunt and grateful, we were anxious to get down to the business of recovery - in short - we were Re-Born To Be Wild on our cycles.

Monday, we both burst with enthusiasm about the arrival of spring and the opportunity to get out in the fresh air for our much needed exercise. My friend had a ''double'' - a liver and kidney transplant. In the hospital, his family came every day, always smiling in my direction as they ducked behind the curtain separating our beds.

I'll never forget the first night, as the soft, soothing sounds of his daughter singing to him in their native Creole-French moved me to tears. From that day, we always called out encouragement to the other as therapists ushered us out bed for a stroll around the floor. When a nurse was needed, but unfound in the depth of night, we bucked each other up, as Dylan would say, like ''crickets talking back and forth in rhyme'' the stronger of the two calling out a deep echo of the other's feeble cry for help until someone arrived.

Our unexpected Monday encounter had all the joy I had anticipated from the celebration of transplant recipients, donor families and medical staff which had been planned for last Saturday at St. Patrick's Cathedral, but was cancelled when the Pope turned gravely ill.

My friend's daughter flung her arms around Nancy and I kissed her on the cheek, saying she was obviously doing a great job of keeping an eye on her papa.

Dr. Devon John, whose sometimes blunt, gallows humor helps lighten the mood in the deadly serious business of transplant medicine, was effusive, too, when I remarked to him how happy I was to see my friend looking so well.

Turning to a junior doctor who had just finished a full, basic examination of me, he filled in our background. ''The two of them would sit across the room from each other watching each other die,'' Dr. John remarked, with an air of satisfaction over the fact that we are both alive and thriving.

The first gift - seeing my friend healthy - combined with my own strong report. Reviewing, the report of blood work taken on Saturday, he said, ''your numbers look great! Better than great, they look fabulous!''

My meds, which have been greatly reduced since the surgery, were kept steady, but I was deemed well enough to now be able to face a small operation for an unrelated hernia which appeared in early November during my week-long stay at Beth Israel Hospital. My twice monthly blood work is now required just once a month and I am completely bandage free.

Monday's only black spot came at lunch before we headed to the city. I bit into a cheese sandwich - and thought I found a pearl - odd, indeed - it turned out to be a small part of an upper back tooth (probably worth about 25 cents on the current Tooth Fairy scale). Thankfully, there's no pain.

Now, I've got detailed instructions from my liver folks for my trip to the dentist - advising what type of medications I need to have and can't have - during oral treatment.

So, bottom line, good news is that I'm feeling stronger every day and apparently on target for a July return to work - and with a temporary reprieve from the transplant doctors, free to go see two other doctors - make that three, I need new glasses, too.

And that passes for mighty good, welcome news around here!


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